Is Inauthenticity coming to the Tri-City Craft Beer scene?

I’ll argue ’til the cows come home that the appeal of craft beer is built in large part due to consumer fatigue for consumerism itself, that we are willing to pay more for a product just because we know the profits are going to a neighbour and community member rather than a faceless multi-national. But big business is aware of this too. Hell, small business people who want to become big business people know this. In fact the creation of faux-community or faux-place is big business in marketing.

This commercial really makes it seem like Blue Moon is an independent brewer with an independent founder but its always been owned by Coors, proof:

“Blue Moon Belgian White (branded as Belgian Moon in Canada) is a Belgian-style witbier brewed by MillerCoors under the name the Blue Moon Brewing Co. It was launched in 1995, and was originally brewed in Golden, Colorado.

Originally called Bellyslide Belgian White, the beer was created by Keith Villa, a brewer at the Sandlot Brewery at Coors FieldDenver, Colorado (owned by the Molson Coors Brewing Company). Blue Moon brewed at the Molson Brewery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada is sold in the USA, as well as exported to Europe.[2] Blue Moon Brewing Co. is an entity of Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft and import division of MillerCoors.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Moon_(beer)

So to spell it out for you this is common practice in beer… if you want local examples think Stanley Park, Bowen Island, Sneaky Weasel (oh snap the last two are the same brewery).

Anyways, I fear this might be happening locally. A new brewery is setting up in PoCo calling themselves Rec Room brewing (cause people often drink beer in rec rooms! well not if you are of age…)

Here comes the Analysis:

Take a look at the Brew Master posting for Rec Room, https://beermebc.com/job/head-brewmaster-new-brewery-in-poco/

      There is more in the online description but holy crap, there is enough HR speak in here for a fortune 500. Brewers in a new brewery spend most of their time simply making sure beer is brewed successfully in a clean environment. Unless this brewery plans to employ 3 other brewers I find it unlikely that their “Brew Master”, a designation earned through training and apprenticeship, not occupation, will be doing anything else but cleaning and brewing.
Job Description (full description here)
  • Utilize skills to craft creative recipes and produce the best, most exciting beers possible
  • Select and maintain quality ingredients
  • Maintains all equipment to “like new” standards 

Maintaining the equipment to “like new” standards often requires a mechanic especially if your equipment comes from China. 

  • Create lasting relationships with vendors and customers 

Maintaining relationships with anyone is tough when you are cleaning and brewing all day.

  • Initial and ongoing training of all management and service staff 
Training management and customers should really be the job of the owners/front end staff… if you are paying a brewer to do this you are wasting resources and don’t know enough yourself to open a brewery  
  • Cultivate a positive work environment for all staff
  • Consistently strive to produce new innovative beverage items to fit concept
  • Takes lead role in developing concept with regards to training material 

Brewers aren’t creating training material! They are too busy brewing, cleaning, and ordering brewing supplies… especially in the early going.

  • Continually train, develop and motivate quality employees 

When you have one, maybe two brewers, beneath you this is little more than marketing speak.

  • Ensure high quality of beverage presentation/preparation 

This one is fair.

  • Consistently increase profitability 

How? Profitability in my estimation generally decreases when breweries increase in production… Your highest margins are in beer sold from tasting room and they decrease when you package and distribute. In the city of Port Coquitlam where tasting rooms are maxed out at 35 seats packaging and distribution is key! Thus, profit margins are reduced and reduced until if and when it becomes feasible to purchase a canning room and integrate distribution vertically may 3-5 years in at best. Breweries at this level are few and far between… P49, Central City, Phillips…

Thus, the only way to increase profitability in the short to medium term is to sell more quickly or reduce the cost of established recipes… this in nearly all cases means sacrificing quality.

  • Accurate reporting of all costs
  • Meet or exceed all budgets 

Yea shit happens in a brewery, sometimes your hops don’t give the right flavours, and you need another dry hop addition, sometimes your fermentation get stuck, sometimes you need to dump beer because it taste bad… Also “exceed all budgets” just reads really poorly.

  • Ensures all accounts are up to date with no “past due” bills
  • Conduct profit analysis where needed 

Nope, that’s your production manager/owner/founders job… yea your brewer should be able to give you some number but their background is biology not business.

  • Write schedules within budget 

Do you guys mean brew schedules?

  • Monthly P&L review with ownership group
If you need monthly P&L review with ownership group it leads me to believe that ownership is not involved with the day to day… that will lead to disaster in its own right.
      In short this whole “Brew Master” Job description reeks of guys with business degrees who enjoy after work beers at Steel Toad reading about the growth of craft beer and hoping to cash in.
     I’m not saying that owners of this upcoming brewery aren’t independents but the way their job description reads it sounds like small time entrepreneurs trying to make big bucks in a growing market using Faux-Good Will for Craft Beer generally, and I get that’s a harsh assessment…
BUT,
     There is a real heavy emphasis on profitability throughout that job description… you could just chalk that up to industry standards, but then compare it to the more standard brewer job descriptions listed here.
     So yes, I am stirring the pot once again. There is also a better than small chance I’m wrong too (that’s fine, I’m often wrong). Even so, I thing it’s worth a mull, if not in the case of Rec Room then definitely in the case of Blue Moon, Stanley Park Brewing, Sneaky Weasel Brewing and Bowen Island Brewing. Then again you might think that all entrepreneurs are using marketing to sell beer and make money and this is just a logical extension of that train of thought and that’s a totally valid opinion too.
POST SCRIPT:
I’m really conflicted about posting this article, but i think the topic is valid and worth a discussion. That said, I pledge to post any response from Rec Room should they respond because they deserve a chance to respond.
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PoCo Breweries

Name: Northpaw Brew Co.

Location: Port Coquitlam’s Fremont Village industrial space behind Wal-Mart

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Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: 35 seat tasting area and adjacent growler room.

Core Beers: Jamaican Pale Ale and likely more to come.

After a long gestation period North Paw’s Physical brewery has finally been born into life. With it come a tasting room in a prior to underserved area of the Tri-Cities. North Paw is ps proving to be very popular with locals and may just be an instant classic.

 

Name: Taylight Brewing

Location: 402 – 1485 Coast Meridian Rd, Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 5P1

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Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: The PoCo Standard 35 seater

Core Beers: Too soon to tell but the beers have come from across the spectrum and are well executed. The Hazy Pale Ale is a personal favourite

PoCo’s second brewery has ales crafted for the time being by the brewer formerly of Hearthstone brewing in North Vancouver. It seems Taylight are in the market for a brewer to take their fledgling business into the future.

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UPCOMING – Several New Breweries

See the new breweries page for more info.

 

 

 

VCBW and the Leading EDGE… Or “Why I’m Not So Sure Craft Can Do Lager but We Should all Enjoy VCBW Anyways…

Alright, So VCBW is quickly approaching! What is VCBW? It’s the best beer bash in Vancouver, or really BC! Just take a look at some of the offerings:

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VCBW 2018 Festival Highlights 

  • 100 + breweries and cideries pouring more than 300 beers and ciders
  • Festivalgoers can create a list of must-try breweries and favourite standout beers in advance through the VCBW website
  • More food trucks
  • BC Ale Trail-er pouring 8 or more craft breweries from the furthest reaches of B.C.’s Ale Trail
  • Craft Beer Market lounge and games area
  • BC Farm Crafted Cider Association’s cider row featuring 10 cideries pouring 16 different ciders
  • United States Brewers Association has chosen the VCBW as their exclusive Canadian festival partner three years in a row. They are crossing the border to pour 30+ beers, many of which have never been poured in Canada
  • Live interactive painting with Vancouver Mural Festival 
  • Floral leis and crown-making from the Leis de Buds solar powered flower bus
  • Dedicated Evo valet parking
  • Live music lineup includes DJ Hebegebe, Dakota Pearl, the Prettys, Youngblood, Mark Woodyard & Friends, the Great Speckled Fritillary, the Spillionaires, Tanglers and GI Blunt

 

VCBW 2018 Festival 

  • Saturday, June 2 from 2p.m. to 7p.m., and Sunday, June 3 from 12p.m. to 5p.m. at the PNE Fairgrounds, Vancouver. Single day, weekend passes and VIP tickets available now at VancouverCraftBeerWeek.comstarting at $39.

 

Why do I love it so much? Because with so many Breweries in one spot you really begin to see where the leading Edge is in Vancouver Beer, you can taste the trends, ride the flavour wave, and vive en vogue (I don’t speak French so I really went out an limb with that one).

For example, Hazy beer really made a splash at the event last year, not only were several breweries pouring the stuff, The VCBW beer (A collab amongst Brewers Row) was a delicious Hazy pale ale with passion fruit and guava.

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This year I’ve heard over and over this is the year of the Lager… I’ve heard this before too, but people are saying it again so lets address it.

Craft breweries have started putting out a lot of Lagers lately, lets list some: Slow Hand Pilsner, Haus Lager, Good Company Lager, Sneaky Weasel, P49 Lager, Back to Basics X 2, there is some older one’s too like Pixel Pils and various Granville Island offerings. Hey Even the next VCBW Collab Beer is a Lager (which I honestly can’t wait to crush at the Opening Night Crusher.)

(Respective instagrams: @goodcompanylager, @slowhandbeer and @haus.beer)

       Even so a lot of releases a trend does not make, here is why:

  • People need to actually want it.

Yes everyone who drinks craft beer wants to convert all their friends to craft beer. We all think that finding just the right transition beer is gonna be the trick, except why would it? If I’m trying to get my friend to enjoy a bison burger instead of Mcdonalds, does it make sense to take out all of the flavour from that bison burger, and make it really thin? Nah because what makes that bison delicious and what makes craft beer delicious is the flavour. If they don’t want it, they don’t want it.

  • Macro Beer is probably better at making Lagers.

Yea so here is the crazy thing about making craft beer, craft beer brewers have no comparative advantage relative to Macro Brewers in terms of production. Macro Brewers are much more efficient, or in other words make beer much more cheaply. The reason we love craft beer isn’t because its cheaper but because its of higher quality… I know you all know this. But Macro Brewers can probably make better lagers, here is why:

  1. Lagers need to be aged (or lagered) much longer than ales. Usually around 6 weeks… That is often double what a craft brewery does with ales and thus makes it much more expensive to produce, so often lager is released young by craft brewers.
  2. Lagers have nothing to cover up flaws and thus really need to be flawless to be good. Craft brewers are great but not perfect, often times those ales we all love have minute problems overcome by hopping or malt or more emphasized flavours. This cannot happen the same way with a Lager, and most craft breweries don’t have nearly the same depth of knowledge to get it just right.
  3. Macro Brewers have a lot of resources in order to get it right. Macro breweries have huge teams to ensure quality (relative term) and consistency. They have sensory analysts, bacterial scientists, and they can afford to dump a tank (something few craft brewers will do).

So am I saying go grab a Coors or Bud Light? No (but some of Vancouver’s best brewers would happily enjoy a Coors), But do check out Pilsner Urquell and Czechvar if you are interested in High Quality Lagers. Unlike American Macro’s who use substandard ingredients (rice) these European behemoths still seem somewhat committed to the craft… maybe I’ll explain why someday (communism and stuff… maybe another live video?)

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GREAT PEOPLE: @Seatoskybeerguy and @andinabrewingco, photo by @bcbeerguy

To end this thing I will say Hopped lagers have a chance. The hops may cover some imperfections and make them more flavourful to new drinkers. The key will be imbibing at the right time, maybe 6-12 weeks. In any case I’ll be first in line for the VCBW hoppy Lager.

I Was Offered Free Beer, I Said No

I got offered free beer, and said “no”.

 

Occasionally I am offered free beer. It’s a nice gesture and its always appreciated. Often times it is informal and comes after I have already written something or have in the past made it clear it’s a product I enjoy. More rarely I get an e-mail offering me beer with an implied coverage exchange. I’ve said yes in the past, but this time I said “no”.

 

The first reason is basic, I already have enough beer. I know the beer geeks out there will say there is never “enough”, but there is. I have trouble getting through all the amazing beer I have, and I often have to force myself to drink things before they go bad.

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There is a feeling of obligation to provide some sort of positive coverage when given the free beer. This is basic human nature and in most cases a good thing… a little reciprocity never hurt anyone. Even so, in the last few years since I changed the focus of this blog I’ve realized what I really enjoy is pulling back the curtain on the beer industry just a little bit, and telling people when I think stuff isn’t great. There are so many great blogs out there telling people all the good things about beer, and I can’t out do them at that, I might as well do what I can do and get a little meta on the beer scene here and there. I know I can’t do that when I accept free beer in formal  exchange(just look at this article I wrote about Big Rock Beer years ago).

So, if you want my honest opinion on beer follow or continue to follow my instagram.

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I once used this crappy photo in a blog.

 

Finally, I don’t rate beer. I’ve explained why before but the gist of it is the experiential gap between me trying a beer and you trying a beer wherever is just too large to bridge well through a blog, beer is experiential I can’t tell you how to feel about it.

 

So what did I do? I recommended some great blogger friends who could help. I’m not lying when I said I appreciate what the brewery in question did when they offered me some beer. So much buzz is built through influencers (not so much me but the bigger blogs and instagrammers) it’s great to see a brewery trying to reward and get ahead of the curve.

CraftcoHop Episode 5 – I Participated

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So a while back i was invited to participate in The Beer Rater’s newest Venture CraftcoHop. CraftcoHop is “A series where The Beer Rater gets a bunch of the local Craft Beer personalities to answer ridiculous questions about beer!”

There is also a competition via instagram where you can vote on my favourite which you can access by clicking right here.

Anyways here’s my submission.. I participated:

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Nothing better than cooking with beer, especially when it goes well! The “when” is the tricky part. I guess, sometimes thats just how it @centralcitybrew Lime margarita Gose.

An Inside Look at Selling Your Soul to the Crafty Beer Devil

Before I go further can I qualify the title as being purposely hyperbolic? There has been a trend in the recent year or so for people to describe my writing as view seeking, and purposely controversial… IT IS! My goal is to start a discussion, and if that happens because you strongly disagree so be it. So the above is not intended to single anyone person or brewery out but simply to  start a discussion… the more voices the better.

Marketing in Craft beer is hard, breweries are, at the end of the day, small businesses with little money for any sort of commercial advertising. They are also in competition with large breweries with multi-national marketing campaigns.

Craft Breweries often rely on influencers, people with large followings who are seen to be able to influence others. Think big bloggers and people with massive Instagram followings. Yes I am in this group too (although not to the same extent as some). In most cases influencers promote independently because they enjoy the craft.

Sometimes small brewers, realizing the value of influencers, will offer the influencers a product with no expectation of favourable promotion. I would say this is the most common form of influence peddling.

Sometimes breweries will offer free products in exchange for coverage, this is often the case for beer festivals, (I am currently covering the Coquitlam craft beer festival in exchange  for attendance). I would guess that 90% of influencers only accept these arrangements when they believe in the product.

Sometimes influencers will attempt to sell their influence too. For the record I have no problem with this as long as it is reasonably clear that some sort of exchange has taken place.

Sometimes Crafty beer companies owned by multi-million dollar corporations attempt influence influencers with a six pack…

I recently became privy to such an arrangement and I’d like to share of the broad strokeds of the arrangement with you my loyal readers.

So what does an influencer get for a 6 – pack of crafty seasonal ale? A bunch of headaches and 20 hours of unpaid work.

Crafty Beer companies are happy to give you six seasonal ales if:

You consider their values:

Make sure you read all about their branding and keep it in mind as you work like an unpaid intern all weekend. Don’t forget to have people in your totally candid un-candid photo and make sure you include lifestyle too. Lifestyle is a big deal and they want as much lifestyle as humanly possible, because their brand is really about lifestyle.

You follow the rules like, no filters (gets in the way of the lifestyle), the brand (which is lifestyle) is front and centre, not overly posed (they want authentic lifestyle), Beer is unopened, Glasses are full, one beer per person… it goes on and on.

by the way you MUST NOT SHOW ANY DRINKING… because drinking is not part of the lifestyle they wish to portray (ok I’m pretty sure this is a law thing but whatever).

So you do all of this for a multi-national corporation worth millions… and you get 12 bucks worth of mediocre beer. More than anything I think we are under valuing ourselves.

 

Conclusion:

What I enjoy about craft beer, among any other things, is that so much of it is sold by word of mouth. A friend or friend of friend whose taste you are just in sync with, a beer that blows up on Instagram, a name or label so infamous you just have to know… Craft Beer remains authentic in our hyper commercial society, but this style of inauthentic blatantly posing as authentic is a step too far from me… I wasn’t asked but i won’t participate.

 

 

 

A Reply to The Growler’s GUIDE TO THE B.C. BEER BLOGGERS OF INSTAGRAM – @BrewsBabesBanny

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OVER 900 likes

“Also, gratuitous cleavage, which might account for her huge following.”

So, this may come off as a salty reply to not being featured in the Growler’s Guide to BC Beer Bloggers of Instagram (despite being recommended for the piece my fair share might I add), But I’m really more salty about how my close personal friend Banny was described in the short piece.

I want to begin by saying I don’t think the Growler ever intended any ill will by what they said, and would like to further point out that there is obviously great benefit to being featured in a great Craft Beer Media format, but I would also like to point out good intentions can have ill effects. These issues are worth talking about in depth and that is what I intend to do.

Not everyone knows Banny like I do. I was there before there was BrewsBabesBanny and I hope I am there after. Banny is ardent advocate for refugees, Banny is a serious champion of women’s rights, and Banny loves craft beer. BrewsBabesBanny, her online persona, Is the good times, the evenings out, the newest release, but BrewsBabesBanny is still Banny.

That is why it is so frustrating for me to read Banny’s description in the Growler:

      “Banny’s photos usually feature new B.C. releases and craft beer classics from across the continent. Also, gratuitous cleavage, which might account for her huge following.

      Yea, Banny seeks out the best craft beer the world over, and if we are keeping tabs she’s one of the best in BC. It’s the second sentence that really irks me here, because, she has cleavage. All women have cleavage. We don’t Say Malcolm of Sea to Sky Beer Guy (my personal favourite blog at the moment) has a gratuitous amount of height which may account for his social media following… the guy is tall. So then why can we so easily, fall in the trap of accounting for Banny’s success in Craft Beer media, through male-projected-sexualization of her body? This statement, all one sentence of it, does so many shitty things at once:

It cheapens Banny’s Success,

It sexualizes and affirms objectification of women’s bodies,

and finally, sorry boys, it’s lazy writing.

When Banny first got into Craft Beer Media she told me she just wanted to give a women’s perspective on craft beer, I wish people could view it that way.

Note – The article has since been changed, but i feel this needs to be said.

Tri-City Craft Beer Awards

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So, I’ve been considering how to explain this for a while. These awards were supposed to be voted on the public, but they are now a Critic’s Awards. So maybe I’ll just tell the truth.

The awards were open to the public.

Any body could vote multiple times.

While at first votes came in and made sense something clearly changed.

After a few days of regular voting, entry after entry was returned within a few hours or two that voted for only one brewery… and most often listed that brewery’s founders as Personality of the year.

As no other entry had ever voted completlry for any one brewery it really seemed like a ballot stuffing measure. Of course I have no proof and I am not going to name the brewery.

Because these entries seemed so fishy and because they totally screwed up the data collection I opened up a new survey for Craft Beer Writers and Personalities only.

This decision quickly vindicated my belief  the earlier entries were bunk as the brewery who was the subject of the ballot stuffing received only a handful of votes overall.

Without further adieu the Critic’s Choice Tri-City Craft Beer Award Winners are:

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The one the only, Twin Sails Con Leche. Twin Sails has had created 48 different releases this year but none grabs you so viscerally the first time you have it as Con Leche. Sweet Rich, Spiced, and oh so well balanced.

Best Tasting Room

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Inside, outside, inside-out, The Parkside has a great space for all weather types and all occasions… not to mention shuffle board, Off road Arcade Games, and Astro turf!

Best Branding

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In what would turn out to be a dog fight with The Parkside, Twin Sails takes it. Who could really complain with the slick minimalistic white can and symbol combo, juxtaposed against the even more rare bright and zany Tasting room only releases?

Coolest Personality

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Despite an Honourable mention for Brewers Row Local @BrewsBabesBanny there really hasn’t been a bigger or cooler personality in Craft Beer this year than @CraftTourist Tim Lahay! thanks for all you do buddy!

 

Best New Brewery

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In a category I hope grows next year we have Coalesce Beer taking home what might just be their first of many awards for their Oaked Brewed Beers. All the best to Coalesce who is proof of the ever maturing Vancouver Beer Scene!

Brewery of the Year

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Who else could is be? It has been a good year Twin!

Also big thanks to the Writers and Personalities that voted:
@thegrowlerbc @CraftEatsbc @vancitydrinks @captainohkirk @BeertifulBC @TheBeerdShow @Whatsbrewingbc @hoppa_fett @Brewsbabesbanny @HopsCanary @fermentationproj @seatoskybeerguy @vancitydrinks @bccraftbreweries